Saturday, April 9, 2011

Shutdown averted - but the GOP hostage-takers are still firmly in control of our "debate!"

I'm glad that a potentially disastrous, hurtful government shutdown was averted, but it was averted largely on terms the GOP set out early on - with Democrats agreeing to larger spending cuts than Boehner had initially proposed (before his "Tea Party" wing weighed in with their extremist agenda.) Paul Krugman, I think, makes a valid point for Democrats and the White House to consider on the deal's implications and aftermath:
The GOP "negotiates"
(I)t’s one thing for Obama to decide that it was better to give in to Republican hostage-taking than draw a line in the sand; it’s another for him to celebrate the result. Yet that’s just what he did. More than that, he has now completely accepted the Republican frame that spending cuts right now are what America needs.

It’s worth noting that this follows just a few months after another big concession, in which he gave in to Republican demands for tax cuts. The net effect of these two sets of concessions is, of course, a substantial increase in the deficit.
There has to be a better way to get this fundamental message across to the public - that the GOP, consumed for over thirty years with an ideology of tax cuts as the solution to every problem, is NOT even serious about the deficits they brandish like a club, so much as attacking government's role in helping seniors, the disadvantaged and increasingly a struggling middle-class which has seen their wages stagnant, their homes devalued and their jobs at risk.

Update: Steve Benen has a bit more "nuanced" view than Krugman's, HERE.
More:  The Winners? - "Tea Party Activists Give Boehner a Nod of Approval" - Wall Street Journal, HERE.

What can the Affordable Care Act do to contain out-of-control health care costs?

US vs. France-Switzerland-Germany-Belgium-Canada...

Ezra Klein, the Washington Post blogger who wrote extensively and cogently on the health insurance reform debate, had some excellent analysis yesterday at his "Wonkbook" of precisely how the Affordable Care Act to overhaul and extend health insurance can work to begin bringing down our country's exorbitant health care costs.

(You can see by the chart above right that this is a uniquely "American" problem, due primarily to  the system's reliance on profit-driven insurance/health care industries, in comparison to other countries with universal coverage and excellent health outcomes, but better-regulated insurance and delivery systems.)

Klein was looking at ACA in contrast to the Paul Ryan/GOP budget plan - which intends to strip seniors of Medicare in favor of a voucherized private insurance scheme - but his outline is useful as a general overview of just what direction the new health care reform will take in beginning to control costs.

Rapid rise in health care $$$ are the big "fiscal" issue.
Anyone who is truly serious about the future of budget deficits and rational allocation of our GDP understands that the only truly difficult "crisis" looming over the nation's finances is in health care costs - whether they come out of the public or private "pocket" - not the more general fiscal issues that are subject more to demagogy than serious discussion.

Here are the essentials on how ACA can help, from Klein:
The Affordable Care Act’s central hope is that Medicare can lead the health-care system to pay for value, cut down on over-treatment, and cut out treatments that simply don’t work. The law develops Accountable Care Organizations, in which Medicare pays one provider to coordinate all of your care successfully, rather than paying many doctors and providers to add to your care no matter the cost or outcome, as is the current practice. It also begins experimenting with bundled payments, in which Medicare pays one lump-sum for all care related to the successful treatment of a condition rather than paying for every piece of care separately. To help these reforms succeed, and to help all doctors make more cost-effective treatment decisions, the law accelerates research on which drugs and treatments are most effective, and creates and funds the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to disseminate the data.

The Federal Reserve - Some background and perspective

In their "Breakdown" podcast, American Prospect blogger Matt Yglesias and The Nation's Washington DC editor Chris Hayes explain much of what you need to know about the Federal Reserve, the most obscure and murky enormously powerful institution in the country - and one which isn't easy to understand in terms of its central role in the economy.  Listen HERE.

Current & former Fed Chairs, Bernanke & Greenspan
"I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant" - former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

After listening to the Yglesias/Hayes podcast, if you want to dig deeper, follow up with Yglesias' useful article HERE in "Democracy" on why progressives should pay more attention to the Fed.

"Money quote" as to why we should care?